The user problem

A user of a website wants everything, but not everything. As a designer, you must always take into account offering the user choices, and especially taking away these choices. Choice overload does not only exist in the supermarket. The point is that when you omit a choice, you force the user to perform an action. And this should preferably be the most logical action. After all, a good user experience is leading. 

One of these actions is the result of clicking on a hyperlink. To open in new tab or not to open in new tab. That's the question. 

To do or not to do?

In addition to UX designers, content creators also have a lot to do with this decision. Do you take the user away from the current page or open the link in a new tab for them. And guess what? It varies considerably per situation and purpose to give the user a certain option. 

So we can't just tar all users and situations with the same brush when we need to open a link in a new tab (or window) or keep users in the same tab. Extensive user research showed that this decision has much more to do with the context, task of users and what they will then do with the content on a page. 

What should you take into account?

A few things to consider when making this decision:

Background: Users performing casual, relaxed tasks were much less bothered by new browser tabs or windows than users in high-pressure or time-sensitive scenarios.

Device: A very important aspect. For mobile users, it is a lot more inconvenient when links were opened in new tabs, as they could not use the “Back” button to return to the previous screen and accessing the previous tab required an additional action.

Task: opening a page in a new window or tab was well received when the task included one of the following types of activities:

  • Compare content - This is especially relevant for content creators. For example, this can edit a web page in a CMS in one tab or window and preview the page in another tab. This can even be handled with a completely new window instead of a tab.
  • Combining information – For example, a user must complete an online form and must look up additional information via references from the form or from the page itself. It is advisable to have each link open separately in a new tab.
  • Compare multiple products – Especially relevant for e-commerce. Users seemed to like it when the product specifications opened in a new tab while shopping online. This gives the user a better overview of the products in which they show interest. Also Page parking .

Base your design on research

Apart from the fact that there is no “catch-all” solution to this problem, the user always has the option to manually open a link in a new tab. But to always force a certain choice is not the answer either. It therefore remains highly dependent on what happens on the page that you present to the user.

For the most part, always open links to users in the same tab. However, if you, as a designer or content creator, think that opening a new tab can help users with their task, don't base this decision solely on gut feeling. It can save the user a lot of frustration and your company a bad association.

Don't overdo opening links in a new tab simply because you equivalent that users want to open links in a certain way in certain cases.

Understand the user

As a web and app developer, we encounter UX issues every day. Not only does it have to look good, but an app or website must also be logically structured. So that the user can follow a natural path.

Do you have a UX issue that you could use help with?


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